Red Bank’s own blues specialist Gary Wright takes it to the Two River Theater on Thursday for a “block party” previewing the upcoming production of ‘A Raisin in the Sun.’ (Photo by Terri Walliczek.)

When the folks at Two River Theater Company launch a new slate of mainstage shows next month, they’ll be bringing in the 2017-2018 season with a fresh look at a genuine American classic — A Raisin in the Sun, Lorraine Hansberry’s 1959 drama of a black Chicago family’s struggle to achieve their dreams.

Before the “raisin” of the curtain, however, the Red Bank institution will be raisin’ the roof this Thursday evening with a community “block party,” a public-welcome affair that boasts live music, dancing, food and a a meet-and-greet opportunity with cast members from the show that opens officially on September 15.

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MimiNowakProjectThe Mimi Nowak Project raises the roof at the Red Bank Woman’s Club for a Reckless Steamy Friday Night on January 30 — while the Jazz and Blues Foundation returns to raise some funds on February 6. (Photo by Sarah Pritchard)

Music fans who’ve been faithful houseguests for Reckless Steamy Friday Nights have a double-shot of good times coming their way in the week ahead — keynoted by the return of the long-running series of monthly house parties hosted inside the historic Red Bank Woman’s Club at 164 Broad Street (and presented by the Jersey Shore Jazz and Blues Foundation) this Friday, January 30.

Running between 8:30 and 10:30 pm, the event represents an intimate audience with The Mimi Nowak Project, the purveyor of classic blues and rock songs that pairs vocalist Nowak with a five-piece band of likeminded souls (keyboardist Bob Stasiak, guitarist Steve Sadowski, sax and flute man Dan Kiely, drummer Paul Levinsky, bassist Joey Van Winkle) that competed in the regional finals of the 2014 International Blues Competition. It’s a best-kept-secret attraction that’s uniquely Red Bank — and it’s BYOB, so drop on in; have a look around the historic home and simply enjoy an experience you’ll not likely duplicate anywhere else. Admission ($10) is dedicated to the JSJBF Scholarship Fund as well as the Woman’s Club — and the Jazz and Blues folks return to the old Anthony Reckless house on February 6 for a bluesy bonus feature.

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poppa_and_gary_j_posada_shotPoppa John Bug (left, with Gary Wright) and Xenia Sky (below) are among the locally based luminaries performing on the debut project by The Downtown All Stars of Red Bank. The release of the CD will be celebrated tonight with a special fundraiser mega-show, upstairs at The Downtown. (Poppa John photo by John Posada)

Preservation Hall had its Jazz Band; The Stone Pony its house band Asbury Jukes. Joey Dee and the Starliters taught ’em how to do “The Peppermint Twist” at that namesake Lounge — and beginning tonight, The Downtown on West Front Street marks its own milestone, with the debut event featuring The Downtown All Stars of Red Bank.

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As defined by Larry Sherman, Downtown All Stars is not so much a gigging band as it is “a community organization formed of local musicians and supporters who are working together to raise money for local charities…using the power of music.”

For their maiden-voyage event, Sherman and his fellow members of the All Stars’ Board of Directors will be presenting a CD Launch Party celebrating the release of Bright Lights on Broad Street, a compilation of original songs written and recorded by eighteen locally connected bands and solo artists.

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Blues and reggae specialist Gary Wright comes to the historic Woman’s Club of Red Bank for the latest in a series of Reckless Steamy Nights. (Photo by Terri GO Seminoles Walliczek)


It was no less an old bluesman than John Lennon who said, “the blues is a chair, not a design for a chair or a better chair… it is a chair for sitting on, not for looking at. You sit on that music.”

Of course, when the person in the chair is someone with the skills and savvy of Gary Wright, that functional piece of furniture can be a throne of kings. The Red Bank-based singer and guitarist (who, just to clear things up, is not this Gary Wright) shares a passion for the blues with a great many other veteran performers on the Shore soundscape — but in the hands of this southpaw stringbender, the legacy of the earliest blues recording artists comes alive. You hear the wise cat’s instinctive sizing up of the room and the audience, the troubador’s sense of social justice, and the crossroads at which the scholar’s pure research transmutes into joyous poetry.

A Red Banker for the past 28 years, the Long Island native would become known as co-fronter (with ex-wife Jennifer Wright on vocals) of Terraplane Blues, a band that released two CDs, played several major blues festivals, opened for some pretty legendary acts, and even made it to the finals of the 2000 International Blues Challenge in Memphis.

In the years since the Terraplane was permanently garaged, Wright has gigged extensively with reggae unit Predator Dub Assassins; sat in with his friend Chuck Lambert; produced the forthcoming CD by Richie Havens Band veteran Poppa John “Bug”; taken part in multi-artist benefits (such as a recent event in Asbury Park organized by the nonprofit Musicians on a Mission), and even showed up at the odd house party sort of affair — including, in the interest of full disclosure, a 2011 happening that took place at this correspondent’s digs inside the Stephen Crane House.

This Friday night,Wright becomes the latest guest performer to join in the Shore’s longest-running house party — the Jersey Shore Jazz and Blues Foundation’s renewed series of Reckless Steamy Nights at the Woman’s Club of Red Bank. It’s a rescheduling of a November 2012 date that was postponed due to structural damage to the venerable venue — and if you’ve yet to attend one of these unique and intimate events inside the historic Anthony Reckless estate on Broad Street, you owe it to yourself to take in some fine and fascinating sounds, take a tour of the landmark house, and take a break for conversation and refreshment with likeminded music fans.

The Blues Desk at redbankgreen went looking for Mr. Wright, in advance of what promises to be his first (and, hopefully, far from his last) full-band solo showcase.

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